Wednesday, March 28, 2012

God is Goode

Today was student-led conference day at my children's school.

Student-led conferences find the children putting together portfolios of their work and their progress throughout the year.  They assign themselves goals and rank their current skills, then at the end of the year they rate their progress.  It encourages accountability and awareness of the impact of what they're learning.

In addition to their portfolios, they also present to the parents their Expeditions.  Their school is an Expeditionary Learning school.  
"Expeditionary Learning is an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning that seeks to improve school culture by making the curriculum more active and by motivating the students to go deeper, work harder, and do more than they thought they could. This school design model is an outgrowth of Outward Bound and strives to develop both the character and the intellect of the students." 
Each year, their work is inspired by and revolves around an expedition.  This year, the Kindergarten expedition was "Fit for Life."  The students learned about fitness, healthy eating and how the body works.  My husband and I were impressed at Tate's diagrams of the heart with all its ventricles and arteries, as well as his drawing of the human body and all its organs.  Not bad for 5 and 6 year olds!  

Score a win for the school!

Then we came to this.  

This was the first draft of his heart diagram, before he knew about ventricles and arteries.

"That's God in my heart."

Score a win for mom and dad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seven Years

Seven years ago, we moved into our current home.

Seven years ago, I went crazy and planted 100 daffodil and tulip bulbs.

For seven years, no daffodils ever bloomed.  Ever.  Only 3 tulip bulbs did, and they were curvy and strange-looking.  Kind of creepy horror-movie-ish.

Today, I pulled into my driveway and almost crashed right through the garage door.


Glorious!!  Simply glorious.

Yes, it's only two, but two's better than nothing.  Right??!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Will They Remember?

Last night, after a long day of work, guitar lesson, a cereal dinner on the run, followed by 2+ hours of lacrosse, followed by homework...I was exhausted.  Not to mention, I had decided to do a particularly grueling "ab shredder" workout and quite possibly damaged an ovary and I was in pain.  After reading with them and getting the younger two in bed, it was Will's turn.  As "I'll be up in a minute and you better be ready for bed" seems to be a foreign language for my children (when I went upstairs he was rearranging his bedside table), I laid down in his bed for a few minutes while he completed his bedtime tasks.  Staring up at the ceiling, feeling the breeze from his window, I looked around and I realized...

...I'd never seen his room like this before.

A firm believer in having your own space, and the freedom to make it yours (with some limits, of course) I am rarely in his room other than to tuck him in (he still says "say me good night-night -- how cute is that?) or deliver his laundry.  So it was strange to put myself in his position for a few minutes to catch a new perspective.

This is the room he's grown up in.  This is the room he'll remember -- remember playing in, studying in, dreaming in.  Will he remember every detail of the ceiling, like all the little stars his mother so painstakingly applied there, or the parts where her not-so-expertly-applied planets fell and ripped off a little of the drywall?  Will he remember the way the light spilled in from the street, or the way the air felt on  his face?  And what else will he remember?  Will he remember his nerves at starting middle school, the sting of being grounded for breaking a rule?  Will he remember the way he feels laying there after the cute girl says hi?  Or the way he felt when he lost the big game?  Will he cry secret tears there, or practice conversations with the shadows?  Will he remember how he tried to figure out his life in the quiet comfort of the darkness?  The thoughts and feelings you can ONLY have to yourself, all alone, in your room?

All of them -- Will, Tate, Meems -- will they remember these things?

I think, from my own childhood, my most powerful memories are not tied just to the house I grew up in, but the room where I spent most of my time.  I remember my red bedspread and every crack in the ceiling of the room my sister and I shared.  I remember every creak of the settling house and the sleepy sounds my sister made.  I remember the way the light spilled in, and the way the birds sang, and the sound of the cars in the street.  I remember the shadows on the walls, and the way the air felt and smelled when it came in through the windows.  I remember dance contests, and teaching my sister to tie her shoes there.  I remember us putting our tights on our heads when we were supposed to be changing out of church clothes, and making hairdos with the "long" hair.  I did my homework there, I pouted there and I learned to apply makeup there.  Sound familiar?  Those memories anchor me.  They are my childhood.  I did most of my thinking, and feeling, and dreaming in that room.  I remember the thrill of sleeping somewhere new when we moved the furniture around.  I remember sitting in the window, staring outside and feeling sad, or happy, or hopeful, or scared.  I do remember reliving the sting of a punishment, the disappointment of losing, the thrill of a boy's attention there.  I remember trying to figure out my life in that room.  My place to absorb and digest what it means to grow up.

The truth is, I discovered a lot about myself in that room.  That room, in its way, helped me become who I am.

I hope my own children have those memories.  I hope that, after 25 years of not being there, they are as vivid for them as if they happened only yesterday, as they are for me.

Will they remember?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Boys are Gross

The other night I took Will to his lacrosse practice.  Lacrosse practice is like manna from heaven for that kid.  Serious bliss.

As we walked across the complex to the car, I grabbed his lacrosse bag (it's almost as big as he is) to help him out.  He was the one who'd been running around for the last hour and a half.  I'd been running errands and killing time.  He falls behind me, then runs up to me and presents me with...

...his cup.  Yes, that cup.

Reflexively I shoved it away, and though I was too shocked to speak (I did manage to sputter some unintelligible consonant sounds) he answered, "but Mom it was killing me."

"Will, you can't take it out HERE on the FIELD!  Couldn't you have waited until we got to the car?"

"Mom it was KILLING me.  No one saw."

In front of God and everybody.  I looked around at the hundreds, literally hundreds of boys ranging in age from 9 to 18 exiting the fields.  And their parents.  And, in some cases, their siblings.  At his OWN siblings, including his sister.  Then I looked up at the brilliant, blinding stadium lights that had the complex lit up like the sun even though it was nearly 10:00.

There are no words.

Turns out, he was trying to put it in the bag, not hand it to me.  Well, thank God for small miracles.

It's still in the bag.  I shudder to think of it.  What to do with it now?  

Come and get him ladies, he's all yours.

Super T

Yes, like everything else in my life, I’m way behind on this project.

Funny that’s the case, because I HATE being late.  

I just sent out thank you notes from Christmas.  And in my frenzy to complete my children’s notes, I’m not sure I did my own.  I think I did, but really, who knows with me?

I also found some of Meems’ thank you notes from her birthday.  In  June.  Better late than never?

T turned 6 in January.  Yes, I realize that was almost two months ago.  With three kids, we do birthday parties every other year, and this was his  year to have one.  He decided he wanted a superhero party.  I was worried a little...was it too juvenile?  Would kids think it was weird?  And then I thought…he’s in Kindergarten!  He’s supposed to have little boy parties!  As the youngest of three, he comes to many activities and attitudes way earlier than his siblings.  Why not preserve the little boy he wants to be? 

Superhero party it is!

Just as my oldest son goes 100% when he plays (sports, any kind of sports, always), little T does too, except his play is pretend play.  The kid is BIG on imagination and likes to go all in, dressing for whatever part he happens to be playing.  It’s not unusual to walk in the playroom and see him standing on his “stage” (folded-over gymnastics mats) with the Wii Sing microphone, a black pirate vest turned inside out so that you can’t see the pirate emblem, black pleather fingerless gloves with studs in the knuckles, black sunglasses that are actually spy glasses so you can see the person behind you, and a bandana wrapped around his head, do-rag style.  Or, sporting cowboy boots, jeans, the same pirate vest and bandana, a cowboy hat and a holster he made out of his church belt, some scotch tape and koozies, filled with water guns (outlaw).  Or pirate vest (it gets a workout), yard gloves, cargo pants, sunglasses and a plaid shirt (garbage man). 

I knew that I would have to do it up with all the props that superheroes need.  He wanted a mask and wrist cuffs to wear to the party, along with his “super T” shirt I made him when he was 4.  And a cape, if possible.  And then I thought…aha, party favors!  So I stayed up half the night (because even though I try not to be, I’m also a procrastinator), made 10 masks and 20 wrist bands for all his superhero friends.  And I threw some silly straws in there for fun, because honestly what kid doesn’t like silly straws.  I was a little chagrined when one of the little boys looked in the goody bag and declared it “lame.”  But as you can see, he got over that pretty quickly.    

What’s better than having 10 little superheroes running and screaming through your house?

Posted by Picasa
Absolutely nothing. 

Especially when it’s followed by giant hugs and a “best day EVER Mom."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


WARNING:  extra long post today. 

Today, my husband took Will to Norfolk to CHKD for his annual visit with his surgeon.

Most people in his life don’t know this, but Will was born with a birth defect.  A cleft palate.  A bilateral cleft, to be specific.  This is a fancy way of saying that both his hard and soft palates were missing when he was born. 

I remember staring in shock as the NICU doctor explained to me that the perfect baby I just saw wasn’t, in fact, perfect.  I saw the compassion and the sympathy in his eyes as he talked to me about what we were facing.  The sympathy…I remember being so furious about that.  Because at the time, NICU doctors and nurses and regular doctors and nurses, husbands, etc. were running around in a whir of activity.  With so much going on, I didn't know what to do, what to think, what to feel.  I was angry with him because he took away the peace and elation that comes with the birth of your child and replaced it with concern and uncertainty and fear.  I was scared and alone and couldn’t comprehend what he was telling me.  And then, “rest for now, and the doctors will visit you later and explain it all to you…” as they whisked my baby away.  And everyone left. 

And then I was really scared and alone.

The rest of the day is a blur of bliss, honestly.  We had waited so long for him.  He was a beautiful baby, with round rosy cheeks, auburn hair, big blue eyes and a little rosebud mouth.  Eventually, doctors and surgeons came in and explained to me that he had a cleft palate, but not the lip (lucky) and that it was reparable (again, lucky) but there would be feeding challenges.  And speech challenges.  And ear problems.  And lots of orthodontia.  And possibly even more surgery.  They set us up with special bottles, showed us how to use them, made appointments with specialists, and then left again. But it was fine, because he was here and I loved him more than anything.  I'd never experienced such a surge of fierce emotion...and I'd never been so happy.  

But later, alone in my room again, I was scared.  Why us?  The responsibility and uncertainty of what we were facing, on top of the stresses of suddenly having a newborn, seemed insurmountable.  My mother walked in then, saw my tears and wrapped me in her arms.   Told me not to worry.  Reminded me that in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t a big deal.  It could be fixed.  Things could be soooo much worse.  He was perfect and wonderful and would be just fine.  And she was right, about everything.  

And then she said, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, Jennifer.  And God has a lot of faith in you…now you need to trust Him.”

And I did.  And soon I realized, we are so lucky.  Lucky to have him.  Lucky that his obstacle can be overcome.  Lucky to have resources.  Lucky to have family with medical connections that led us to Dr. Bill Magee, a world-renowned surgeon.  Lucky he was close.  Lucky he stepped in and saved the day.  Lucky to have an excellent team of physicians following him.  Lucky our insurance covered his surgery.  Lucky our insurance has covered his 11 ear tube surgeries.  Lucky for ear tubes.  Lucky for speech programs.  Lucky for modern orthhodontia.  Lucky for so, so many things.  He is just fine.  As are we.  More than fine.  He’s perfect.  And we are, truly, blessed.

And that’s why these clinics are so important.  Not just for follow up to make sure all is well in his mouth, but because he, and we, once a year bear witness to how blessed we truly are.  It’s a clinic at the Craniofacial Institute at a hospital full of nothing but children.  CHILDREN.  Each year, we see children who are lucky to have found Dr. Magee, but who definitely are not as lucky that Will.  Children with massive facial deformities.  Children who will never walk because of their birth defects.  Children who breathe with the help of a machine.  Children who weren’t lucky enough to have just a cleft palate and bear the scar that so many people still refer to as a “hare lip.”  It makes our hearts hurt.  It makes us think.  We gain a little perspective at these visits.  Scratch that -- we gain LOTS of perspective at these visits.     

Which is important.  Because as the years have passed, and our lives are so normal, we tend to lose sight of how blessed we are.  Will is an amazing child…smart, funny, athletic, handsome, introspective, inquisitive, passionate and unafraid. 

I no longer ask God “why?”  I thank him, profusely and every day, for my wonderful blessings.  I thank him for teaching me that everything’s relative.  I thank him for teaching me about grace.  I thank him for my, and my family’s, imperfections.  Because they are beautiful.  And while they may cause struggle, and even tears sometimes, they are a reminder that everyone carries some sort of burden.  It's a part of life, it's a part of parenting.  Some are more severe than others.  My friend who lost her son to cancer...I can't compare my experience to hers.  But it allows me to, once again, gain perspective.  

And thank God who has been so good to us.  

And for believing in me, even when I didn't.